Written by Vladimir Moss



     Today is the Sunday of “Antipascha” – literally, the Sunday “opposite” or “on the other side of” Pascha. Having rejoiced for the whole week in the Resurrection of Christ, we contemplate what it would be like if things were the opposite from what they are, if we did not have this joy in our faith, as if Christ were not risen, as if we were on the other side of the moon of hope, in the darkness of unbelief. The Apostle Thomas was in this black abyss. While the apostles and the holy women were rejoicing around him, he felt nothing in his soul. He was alone, dark and cold in spirit; he was still suffering the profound sorrow of the loss of his deeply beloved Master. He would, of course, have loved to believe as his fellow apostles believed - but he couldn’t 

     What does this tell us? First of all it tells us that faith is a gift of God… There were “many infallible proofs” (Acts 1.3) of the Resurrection of Christ: the empty tomb, the graveclothes, the testimony of the soldiers, the testimony of the holy women, the testimony of Peter, the testimony of Luke and Cleophas. There was no reason to doubt these testimonies. If we know people to be reliable, and if they are unanimous in their testimony, a testimony that points to only one possible conclusion, it is not reasonable to doubt. Faith is, ultimately, rational; it is not blind; it is not absurd, even if it may be surprising and contrary to entrenched modes of thought. We do not have to give up our reasoning powers in order to believe. On the contrary, everything then pointed to the Resurrection of Christ, as it continues to point to it now. But reason, while it points us in a certain direction, to a certain destination, does not by itself take us all the way to that destination. As in Michelangelo’s famous painting in the Sistine chapel, where Adam’s outstretched finger reaches out for, but does not quite reach, the outstretched finger of God, our reasoning powers take us only so far in reaching the truth of God. There is a gap. And that gap can only be filled by a gift, the gift of the Spirit of truth, “the finger of God”, as St. Gregory of Nyssa calls Him. That is the gift of faith, that spark of electricity that jumps the gap and makes the connection. And God had not yet given Thomas the gift of faith.  

     Secondly, there are reasons why some people receive faith and others don’t, and why some people receive faith and keep it, while others receive it and then lose it. Although all the apostles except John fled at the time of the crucifixion, showing their lack of faith and courage, the fall was deepest for two of them: Peter and Thomas. Peter, because he had not only run away, but had even betrayed Christ – the same Christ Whom he had promised he would never betray. And Thomas, who had exhorted the others to go and die together with Christ, but then had run away to safety. Of course, the boasts of Peter and Thomas were not entirely empty bravado. They were both great men who showed their courage and their love for Christ in abundance later in life. But they had trusted in their own strength and not in God’s. And therefore God had allowed them to fall.

     But there was a difference between the two. Peter repented of his fall immediately, weeping bitter tears of sorrow. And in token of his genuine and deep repentance the Resurrected Lord had made a special appearance to Peter… But we do not read this of Thomas. Did he fail to repent? We do not know. In any case, in contrast even with Peter, he was still in a dark place “on the other side” of Pascha…

     But then the Spirit of truth placed an idea of genius into his mind, an experimental test of the Resurrection which, if passed, would convince not only Thomas but all later generations of reasonable men.

     What do fallen men believe in most of all? The evidence of their senses? But which is the most reliable of the senses? Sight? No – a mirage can deceive a thirsty man in the desert when there is in fact no water there. Hearing? No – a recording can deceive a man into believing that he is hearing a living voice, when it is in fact dead. The most reliable – if also the crudest – is the sense of touch. So Thomas, inspired by God, demanded that he be able to perform an empirical, scientific experiment on the Body of Christ: if he could touch the print of the nails, and put his hand into the wound in His side, He would believe that He was not merely a man inspired by God, but the God-man. The Lord took him up on his “gamble”. He entered through the locked doors – another proof of the resurrection – and allowed Thomas to prove through the sense of touch that Christ is risen indeed, not only in spirit, but also in body, a body of flesh and bones. And so he uttered the triumphant words of undoubting faith: “My Lord and my God”…


     But let us return to the subject of doubt. Just as the foundation of all good is faith, so the root of all evil is doubt. Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich, who wrote a university thesis on the subject of the Resurrection of Christ as the Foundation of the Apostolic Faith, declares that there is no sorrier sight than “when a created man listens to the words of the Creator in the Gospel, and doubts them.

     “Great Moses only once doubted God’s word, and he was therefore punished by being forbidden to enter the land to which he had been travelling for forty years. The Prophet Zacharias did not believe the words of the Archangel Gabriel about the birth of John the Forerunner, and was struck dumb at that moment 

     “How dreadful also was the punishment given for the first doubt of our forefathers! Adam and Eve were driven out of Paradise because they doubted God’s word and believed their own eyes; they believed themselves and the devil.”[1]

     “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11.6), so we must flee doubt like the devil himself and stir up in ourselves every opportunity to strengthen our faith. Above all, we must strengthen our faith in the Resurrection of Christ. For, as St. Paul says, “If Christ is not risen, your faith is in vain, you are still in your sins” (I Corinthians 15.17).

     Why is this so? Because when Christ was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Trinity, it witnessed that His Sacrifice on Golgotha for the sins of the whole world had been accepted by God. Just as God witnessed by fire that the sacrifice of Abel was pleasing to Him, but rejected the sacrifice of Cain; and just as He witnessed by fire that the sacrifice of Elijah was pleasing to Him, but not the sacrifice of the priests of Baal, so He witnessed that the sacrifice of Christ on Golgotha was pleasing to him by the descent of the Holy Fire into the Holy Sepulchre, raising up the Temple of His Body after three days – while the veil of the Jewish temple was rent in twain and the fire of the Shekinah departed from it, never to return again…

     But much more is signified by the Resurrection of Christ. Above all, it signifies that every word of Christ our Risen God is true, and that we have no reason to doubt it in any way. For by prophesying beforehand that He would accomplish this divine and most supernatural of acts, He not only confirmed all the words of the prophets who prophesied it hundreds of years before. He showed that He Himself spoke through the prophets, and that He Himself is God, Who must therefore be believed in everything, whatever any mere man may say or do to try and undermine His word. For “indeed, let God be true and every man a liar. As it is written: ‘That Thou mayest be justified in Thy word, and mayest overcome when Thou art judged’” (Romans 3.4).

     As Bishop Nikolai puts it: “Man’s doubt in Christ is the ultimate revelation of man’s sickness in the great hospital of the world. The world has no medicine for this sickness, for the risen Christ is the only medicine, and if a man will not take it, how can he be healed?

     “The Lord Jesus confirmed the revelation of truth by His conquest of death as the risen Lord. If a man does not believe in His Resurrection from the dead, how can he believe all the rest that He said and did? What mind could understand that He did indeed raise the dead, were He to have remained in the grave and seen corruption? What tongue could have confessed that His words were the words of life, were His life to have been snuffed out on the Cross on Golgotha?

     “Oh, my brethren, the Lord has risen and is alive! What sort of further proof can be used when this is the most proven fact in the history of the world! God’s providence so ordained this, in His love for mankind…”[2]


     One last thought. We live in an age of terrorism, when men armed by a supposed faith in God, bring terror and death to innocent people. The question is: why do they do this? It is not a sufficient answer to say that their supposed holy book, the Koran, tells them to do this. For why should they believe such a book, which, unlike the Gospel of Christ, has no irrefutable fact, like the Resurrection of Christ, to confirm its truth – but is, in fact, easily exposed as a fake and a diabolic lie by all those who use their minds?

     A possible answer to the question is this: that it is not so much faith that motivates these men as doubt, doubt in the truth of their religion, and that in order to drive away this doubt, which burns them like the fire of hell, and which terrifies them as nothing else can, they resort to terrorism, hoping against hope that the promises they do not fully believe in will be fulfilled when they have offered the ultimate sacrifice of their lives.

     Of course, only the devil can inspire such acts. But what is it that allows the devil to enter and take over a man if not doubt? What is it that allowed the devil to enter Judas and betray Christ if it was not doubt that He was really who He said He was – the Messiah of God? Other motives such as greed and hatred may play their part, but the ultimate motivator of the greatest evil is always doubt. It is doubt that leads to hatred, demonic possession, murder – and suicide.

     Whether this hypothesis is correct or not, the behavior of these terrorists demonstrates what is no mere hypothesis, but an indubitable truth: that the question of faith is the ultimate question, the only really important question, and that the failure to find the true faith, the terrible and terrifying sin of doubt, of calling God a liar, is the only ultimate and eternal torment.

Christ is risen!


April 10/23, 2017.

Sunday of Antipascha.

[1] Velimirovich, “Homily on the First Sunday after Easter”, Homilies, vol. 1, Birmingham: Lazarica Press, 1996, p. 214.

[2] Velimirovich, op. cit., p. 215.

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